Roimata's Cloak

Week 8
I am continuing with Roimata's Cloak for a second week because there has been some rich discussion around this book and also so that I can pace myself and slow down. We will complete our kakahu this week and the children want to make a puppet show with the story. I don't really know how this will work. It seems like the wrong story for a puppet show but I guess we can try. My friend said that it would be good to show the essence of the story as a movie. I would like to achieve that somehow. I think actually that the essence of the story is each child's response to it and that is a documentary or a poem but maybe not a movie. Maybe I should have worked on making one movie instead but I have learnt something from each one so I guess now that I am learning how to do it, I could dream something up for the future. Children's thoughts and ideas about death are fascinating and funny and beautiful but adult humans are very uncomfortable with this.

I have not achieved what I had hoped to so far. I am not patient enough to capture it.

Book making

Big book..

Day One
I decided at 1 o clock today to publish the kids picture books. We finish school at 2:30 so this was a seriously ridiculous decision and I knew it but I just don't care. Well a few of them are gems. Little gems that came from somewhere. I took them to the staff room and read them to my colleagues. They were surprised. I think this is an AHA moment but I already know it. You know like when you just find confirmation. So it isn't AHA. It's yes. The thing is that the books have some story to them and they have language and rhythm and for a quick do I am happy. They have learnt to write by listening to the picture books. I can hear it in the stories.
Since I am a photocopy machine dummy I had to think laterally. At 1:30 I decided to teach the kids to sew. They each sewed their books with a strip of material to bind them. Very funny. And crooked. That was because I couldn't work out how to print a document like a book. They should fire me from this e fellow. Time. Four days and counting to put a thing in for ULearn.
The puppets are done and the kids are making play with them on the wall outside in the sun. We are having a movie night at school for families of our class. Then I can get on and add them to our Blog. I refuse to let parents and kids sit at home and watch these by themselves on a little screen with no popcorn. How isolating the internet can be. No way.
I have to dress up tomorrow. What can I be? I want to be a cowgirl but there are no books with cowgirls. All the girl pirates look stupid. I'll be a robber.

I like coincidence. And luck. And serendipity. This weekend I went to see my 16 year old son star in a play. The strange thing was that his role was Raven, a character from a book who comes to life and guides some young people on a quest. He is the link between reality and the story and the weaving together of the two. The blurring of the two. The influence the book and the story have on these characters choices and thoughts and decisions. The power of the story/the book on their lives. Maybe that is my role too. It felt surreal to be watching the play. As though the play was a message for me and very timely.

Book Parade

Day Two
We had a book day today. It started with a brilliant performance by the Aranui Theatre Company. They performed a play, "Once Upon A Pie" which was a story that wove lots of different
fairy tales together. The children were so completely engaged in the story and I found myself watching their faces as they responded with such emotion.
All of the children dressed up. I was the golden harp from Jack and the Beanstalk. It was pretty tiring. I thought about filming them but decided to leave it. Some of the children read their stories to the class. I do like their stories and watching them read, savouring their moment.
I have had two influences lately. I watched a documentary about Leunig and his cartoons and the making of an animation using real drawing, props, and plasticine characters. It took them a day to film 8 seconds. The animator said, "It is so good to get off the computer and get my pens out." Hmmm. Leunig is a wise and beautiful human being. He wasn't wanting to speed up his work to suit the modern attention span. He said lets give them something simple and beautiful. A little moment. Yes, you have to be strong to be an individual. People have lost something with technology, with computers. Or at least with the way the masses use them. I wish I could show something in our films that captures the something that happens sometimes with the kids. It is so really special. You feel like you are in the presence of angels, but it is hard to fake it or make it.

I had a conversation with my collaborator. I am thinking about authors that I like. Stories that I like. As a kid I loved Ali Babba and The Forty Thieves and all of the Grimms Fairy Tales. We were read a lot of Doctor Seuss and I don't like it. I did like Dickens. I grew up in Canada so my books were different. I liked the Indian stories and legends. I still do. When I go back to Victoria I always go to the museum by myself and sit upstairs in the dark and watch as the masks light up one by one and the voice tells the stories of the characters, the birds, the totem stories. My Dad used to sit with my sister and I each night in our room in the dark and tell us stories. That was my favourite.
Since I have been a parent I think I have grown to love books more than when I was a child. Maybe the books are better. My favourite adult read lately was The White Tiger and I really enjoyed Shona Koea's autobiography. My favourite genre is short story and I am reading Cilla McQueen's poems lately. I am reading Kate Camp's book about the classics. She is so funny. It is good to be an adult sometimes. I liked Margaret Atwood's series on Debt. Is all this relevant. Maybe not. I guess these people influence my thinking. I have always liked the conversations on building sites. They are so well read and informed. Sometimes I think teachers live in a vacuum and if I sit and listen to another story about this child or that then I am going to do a headstand. I am one of them though. I do it too. It is so all encompassing sometimes that you have to just figure it all out.

The books the kids made are hand painted and I typed the words. They are low tech but the content is there. They are proud of them and they know the link between writing and reading now. They are absorbing language.

Book Characters

Movie Night Chatting

Day Three
I don't know what this feelings is. It's like I've been on a high speed car chase but all I did was have a movie night at school with all the kids in pyjamas and lots of brothers and sisters and most parents and 6 huge bowls of popcorn and it went alright I think but now I wish I had a whisky straight up. Here I am sipping licorice tea. We probably had 40 people watching.
I have organized lots of live performance in my time but this made me more nervous. It's the unpredictability of technology that makes me shake in my boots. There was only one glitch tonight. The Little Red Hen kept coming up and playing as We're Going On a Bear Hunt. Luckily I had forgotten to give out the popcorn so I quickly did that to distract them while I made several unsuccessful attempts to show the movie. The children were desperate to see The Gingerbread Man which we filmed today so I played it unedited and it was actually very funny. Some of the acting and confidence and expression and use of voice has improved over the time we have been filming. I hadn't noticed until tonight as I have never watched all of the films together.
Apart from my nerves, it was very special. The kids were singing or remembering their roles and acting them out as they watched !! The parents laughed and were very engaged and entertained. They had those kind of faces like the kids watching, sort of incredulous. They chatted away afterwards and were very grateful. I wonder what they thought.
Now they can watch them online. I didn't talk much. I also showed there artwork and the books they had made.
I also shared the wiki with the BOT last night. I don't know why but I feel suddenly very self-conscious about it all and I'm terrified of them reading this, the way I write like there's no edit button in my head.

Tomorrow my researcher comes from Wellington. The whole class is covered in popcorn and chairs and there is no plan on the board.

Questions I am pondering. When is the right time to intervene in children's conflicts or problems? How do I respond to conflict? How can I give children tools to work out their problems through our picture book talks or play? Are boys really so different in their needs, skills, ways of learning from girls? Shall I try filming a bit of choosing time and show them it? What about praise? Will I keep making films next term? Reading books in this way? Do parents understand what we have been doing? And most importantly, what am I going to do for ULearn?

Vacuuming popcorn

Kakahu weaving

Day Four
My researcher came today. She vacuumed all the popcorn up and I think she is just about the nicest person. Parents came and said good things about the movies and the night. I got e mails too. Very reassuring. We spent awhile talking as a class about the night. Some children spoke about themselves playing a role and a few liked other children's scenes. My Cat Likes To Hide In Boxes was a favourite movie for lots of them. We wrote about the night. Having parents come to school in the dark and eat popcorn was a big excitement too. One child wrote it was boring, I don't know why. I asked what she meant by boring but she couldn't say. Sometimes when the children use "boring" they mean challenging or another similar thing. I said I felt self-conscious and a bit embarrassed, is that what she meant? She said she thought it was that. I will pursue this more and find out. I think it was as though we were showing the parents our secret world and this is a bit strange for the kids and maybe for the parents too a little. And me.
We had some rich discussion after reading Roimata's Cloak after lunch. I told the children that I was wondering about the cloak, about why it could fly and where the cloak and bird were flying to. I said it felt like a happy and sad feeling for me. One girl said she felt fascinated and sad and happy. They asked what a maiden of the mist is and how it spreads the mist. One child thought it was like a fairy spreading it's wings. The conversation took many turns. As teacher I am trying to allow children their voice but sometimes I move the conversation along to another child.
When Sue and I were at home I found again that there is so much to reflect on. What learning can I see? I will have to make a list. I like lists. It was very good though to have a reflective conversation. Helpful. It is satisfying actually to have the luxury of dialogue like that away from the staff room.
The children were also very proud of themselves and the parents were too. Nearly the entire class made it. I am so glad that we did it this way, as a special night out with the whole family.
At the end of the day we watched The Gingerbread Man and the kids had some good ideas for editing and also for adding in sound effects. It was good to include them. We have nearly finished the kakahu but we haven't made the puppet show yet.
I want to read a different book. The kids want a funny book. So do I. Comic relief perhaps. There are not enough funny books with something resonating rich within. I'll have to go hunting.

Today one of my boys said he was a helicopter.

Money goes into ICT like one of those magic boxes. It just seems to disappear.

Craig shoots at the kids level.

How does the page make you feel? Where will the cloak fly to in the end? We need to share our ideas and feelings about books too.

Day Off
Teacher sleep. Most people don't understand this job. You wake up some nights at 4 am re-doing a moment or editing the day. UG. Against your own will. It's the cruelest part of teaching. I love sleep almost better than life and when it is stolen from me by my own lack of letting go or fresh air, I feel like a kid whose just had his lollies nicked.
Snarling and frosty. Even a coffee can't thaw this mood. Lucky I have two stupid ducks and a sideways lamb to break the ice.

I have been reading e-fellow wikis and blogs. Found a link on Claire's to thinking critically. Are we thinking critically as e-fellows? We are doing this research with a kind of anticipated positive outcome to the end result. We are not scientists but as a teacher and a researcher don't we have an obligation to question what we are doing from all angles not just simply say it's good, yup the kids are learning more, yes they are more motivated by blogs, oh the movies are fab...We are asked to report on the AHA moments but surely with all the emphasis now on thinking skills and taxonomies and hats and values and key competencies and on and on , we should be doing what we expect our kids to do. We should be engaging in critical discussions. Challenging each other. Asking why. Prove it. Prove it again from a different point of view. Changing our position and arguing it from the opposite and getting the kids to do all those things as well.
The E-fellowship has been dropped from future funding now so maybe what we do has little relevance.

It is difficult to put a lot of time and energy into something and get release time and then say it isn't worthwhile. I'm not saying it isn't yet. I have always believed that every teacher should be a skilled writer, well read, and be able to sing, dance and play an instrument with skill. That sounds a bit silly. Imagine if all around the country we supplied musical instruments to schools. We taught every teacher how to play well, sing, and dance. In every community people came together and had festivals of dance and music and shared food regularly at schools. I know this happens in some places, but it is not valued with funding and status. Imagine if we had music and dance and literacy clusters where teachers came together to play music and share ideas about books and learning. I sound like I'm from lala land.

I am trying to use ICT in a way that helps bring people together and performance does that. Is there a better way though? Than films? Is using ICT an effective use of time as a busy teacher? How much time do I spend reading junk e mails every day? How many stupid competitions do I have to scan through? How many more will arrive as time goes on and everybody has great ICT skills? Who has an interest in this? Financially I mean. Who has a job because of it? Who makes money from this?
Money. That is a big factor in ICT. Schools have to find it. Figure out what is important. Keep up. Change. Improve. Upgrade.
How can we do ICT cheaper? What is necessary? What is just stupid or boring? How does this affect teacher workload? How does putting information, photos, and film onto the internet affect children? Why would you bother to write blog comments to people who are in the same room as you when you could just talk.

Is the financial input to ICT worth the output? Is the time input worth the outcomes? How does all this change and purchasing and dumping of equipment affect our world? Money is important and so is time. Will ICT help people who don't have any money? Give them a chance? Or will it help people who already have lots of it? Does it give people more time or take more time from them? Does it make life richer and learning deeper? A bit simplistic to ask but does it? Does it make the classroom a better learning space? My question brain is awake but my answer brain is drifty. I need a real person to debate with, not just myself and the keyboard.

Today I have two little devils, one sitting on each shoulder. One is called Lazy and the other is called Afraid. Lazy is prodding me with his little fork saying "Don't bother loading all the films onto the class Blog. Go have a bath and a walk. Lie down and have a little rest in the sun..."
Afraid is saying " You can't let parents read this wiki, you dilly brain. Everyone will know what you are thinking and that that thinking is far too transparent and all is not what it seems. Why did you write so many stupid things? Delete the wiki, delete the wiki, delete the wiki. Load the films onto another blog..."

Lazy is winning. Why am I afraid of parents reading this? I feel like they will think I am nuts. They don't really know what the job entails or what happens all day long and here it all is. Not all of course. I feel embarrassed. Maybe they will recognize their child in my writing and be critical of me. I should have kept a private journal but I didn't. Lazy wins. Maybe I will delete the wiki at the end.

Roimata's Cloak

During the process of making our kakahu-cloak the children took photos of each other. I guided them to take lots of closeups of their hands but we also decided to include photos of ourselves dancing with the some of the ribbons which we had used during our dragon dance. This movie was made by selecting a collection of photos which would relate the story of our kakahu making, but also the story of our book sharing and our movie making. The underlying theme is about the way people are woven together through shared creating. It is also a story of the cycles of life. The seasons of life, if you like.